Saturday, December 15, 2012

He is in the Darkness

I don't really have anything profound to say about the school shooting yesterday. A day that started out with getting out of bed late, quick breakfasts, and hurried goodbyes as little ones rushed off to school, ended with terror, heartache, and terrible, unanswerable questions. Twenty mamas went to bed with out goodnight hugs last night. Hundreds of children didn't sleep because every time they closed their eyes, the saw the carnage, remembered the fear, and heard the pop of the guns. Teachers and school staff went to bed asking themselves if they did enough to protect innocent lives, wishing they had done more, and feeling guilty because they survived. It was not an easy day. No of us can imagine how a man could walk into a classroom and take little lives. Few of us can comprehend what it will be like to celebrate Christmas in just a few days while the silence screams that someone is missing. None of us knows where - or how - to begin to pick up the pieces. We have questions about gun laws. We have questions about how? and Why? and Didn't you see? Our human minds just cannot make sense of so much horror. There is so much I just don't know. But here's what I do know: God comforts all who mourn. He loved that terrible, tortured gunman, too. He knows where and how to begin to pick up the pieces. He knew this day was coming. He had a purpose for those little ones, those adults, and though we may not like it very much or understand it at all, their purpose on this side of Glory was completed. He is still God and He's still good. It's easy to call for stricter gun laws or more security at schools. I'm not saying those are bad things. But, the problem here is in the heart of man. No law is going to stop the evil that is in the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" Until we each deal with our sin problem, these are the facts of life. Until Jesus comes back and restores all that sin has stolen from us, until that day when He forever redeems the curse - evil will see to win. BUT, there is coming a day when He will restore and redeem. He will win in the end. These tears as hot and bitter as they are, will be wiped away. There is coming a day when all things will be made new. And for that day I groan in anticipation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Update......


I think the worst part about living in the bush is the lack of communication. I can deal with cooking over fires, killing chickens (yes, 8 of them, to be exact), and no electricity. BUT, the lack of communication is killing me! It's so hard to not be able to hear from home and to be able to share with all of you who are so faithful in supporting me and praying for me what is going on.

Here's the latest with the school:
  • The "group" I asked you to pray for is still rebellious in nature, but due to a recent incident they have been given an 'official' warning. The next time they will be asked to leave the school. That, is obviously, what we do not want. Please continue to pray for their hearts to soften.
  • We have 3 weeks left of the lecture phase and then we will be headed to outreach phase. I am leading a team of 10 (plus 5 kids) to Mueda (North west of Moz) and to the Island of Mozambique (also NW of Moz). Neither of these places has established YWAM works and Mueda does not have any evangelical ministries that we are aware of. In both of these places we will be working among Muslims. Please pray for wisdom, grace, and knowledge as we seek to start an evangelical ministry among these people.

Here are some other prayer requests:

  • As we speak, I have a document pending in Religious Affairs that will make renewing my DIRE a little bit easier. Please pray for a smooth process and that it will also be approved by Immigration tomorrow.
  • Before I come home, I will need to make a trip to Lichinga to start the renewal process on this side, before I begin the paperwork stateside. The timing of this is a little bit tricky with the DTS, so pray that I will be able to travel quickly and cheaply and accomplish everything that I need to.
  • I have decided to lead the DTS school in Lichinga next year. It will begin in June and end in November. Please pray for me as I begin the process of finding staff and teachers for the school.
  • The Lord is still defining in me exactly what He has called me to do in Mozambique. There are so many unreached people groups, so many needs, and my heart is so large for all of them. I am feeling specifically pulled towards the areas of healthcare and education in the larger context of community developmet. Please pray for me as I seek God's direction in this. YWAM offers several schools for healthcare and community development....and I need to know if I should pursue these schools. I know these plans and ideas will be at least postponed until after I finish the DTS in November of 2013, but it never hurts to pray A LOT! The communities here are so broken, so needy, so desperate to see that God has a plan for them in every aspect of their lives.

That, I think, is all for now. I am doing really well healthwise (yay!) I am finding myself more and more at home in Mozambique and my Portuguese is getting better daily. I am so in love, so content, with the calling He has placed on my life and I pray for all of you that you will feel such peace and contentment with the place He has called you. It has been hard, to be sure, but more than anything it has been worth it all.

I will update you when I can! Thanks for praying.....

Because of Grace,

Friday, June 29, 2012

To All Who Are Hurting

Hosea 6:1 - "He has torn us to pieces, now He will heal us. He has injured us, now He will bind our wounds."

There is a point in all of our lives when the ache in our hearts becomes a physical hurt. It's like your soul is a thousand pound weight crushing your chest, robbing you of breath. That's what I felt today. I went out to visit my boys one last time - to say goodbye before I head off to Marromeu to staff the DTS.

When I told them I had come to say goodbye, I could see the disappointment in their eyes. It has only been a few weeks ago that another volunteer left to return to England. I could feel the Liar creeping in telling me that I had failed them. I felt so guilty. In their little lives they have lost so much.I felt so much like I had let them down. I had become one more person that came and went - the same old story for these little guys.

I promised them that I would pray daily for them and then asked if I could pray a blessing over them before I left. They agreed and as I prayed, I felt like my heart would surely burst! But as I prayed for the peace of God, his presence, his love in their lives - Jesus gripped my heart. He has stored up all their tomorrows. He knows how many more people will come and go. He also knows he will never go.He knows how many hurts will need to heal and how much trust will need to be rebuilt. He knows the answers to their questions and He will not disappoint them. He will be by them every moment of every day for as long as they draw breath. There is such sweet comfort in that!

As I hugged them, I tried to lock away in my heart their little boy smells, their salty tears, and how the smooth skin of their cheek felt against mine. I tried to store in my memory the deep beauty of their dark eyes, the sound of their laughter, and way their little bodies felt in my arms.

I hope one day I'll see them again this side of heaven. If not, I'll look forward to that wonderful day when I can hold them again.Until then, I'll trust the One who has already beginning to heal and bind my wounds and I'll thank him that somewhere in this world He's doing the very same things for 25 precious little boys. He is the Keeper of Time and the Bottler of Tears, and though sometimes it hurts, when I can't trace is hand I can trust His heart.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When God Wrecks Your Plans.....

God has this terrible habit of wrecking my plans. And while I have to admit that all the "wreckage" He has caused has turned out pretty good for me, I am once again left shaking my head. I will be coming home to the states, but I won't be coming home until December. Just in time for Christmas!

As you may remember from my last post, I am leaving Beira and headed to Lichinga. The plan was to come home after moving to Lichinga for a short trip to renew my paperwork and then head back to Mozambique. I also told you that I was going to a YWAM conference in Marromeu for two weeks. That is where the trouble started.

This year, the leadership of YWAM Moz has decided to hold a national DTS. The DTS (Discipleship Training School) is YWAM's most basic school. Through the DTS YWAM teaches their values, doctrines as wells as teaching basics of the faith and preparing students for a life in missions. This is the school I did six years ago in Moz.

Usually each base holds their own DTS, but this year the leadership wanted to hold one large DTS and have staff from each base. Sounds like a great idea, right? I thought so, too and thanked God for all the people who were going to staff the DTS. I did not plan for it to be me. It did not fit in with my timing.

So, I went to this conference and one day the school leader was asking us what we could commit to the DTS. He said he was still understaffed and that this was our collective DTS and we each needed to be willing to give something to it. I heard this still small voice (you know the one) in my head say, "You know you could change your ticket to December."

I quickly squashed the voice, because that was not what I wanted to hear. Shortly after Francisco's plea we had a short break. As I was walking out of the room, my friend Suku grabs my hand and says, "You know you could change your ticket to December." Great.

Thank you, Holy Spirit. So when I don't listen to you, you send someone else with the exact same message. Fine.I guess I'll have to go pray about it.

And I did. The more I prayed, the more I realized that I needed to go ask Francisco what he needed for the DTS. I was desperately hoping he would say "nothing" or "come sweep floors for a month before you go home." Nope, of course not. He smiles and says, "I need English speaking staff. I have three American girls coming to this DTS."


So of course, I told the Lord if he would remove the obstacles, I'd be happy to stay. I thought this was very smart seeing as changing an international ticket is very expensive. There were also a few other obstacles that I thought would make it a no-go. Of course, He did remove the obstacles - right down to changing my airline ticket for less that $200. Of all the things you pray, don't pray for God to remove obstacles.......He can, you know!

So, in a couple of days I am headed back out to the bush. Yep, the lots of mosquitoes, no electricity, barely- there- phone -signal bush. And, truth be told, I couldn't be happier! I'm still getting used to the change of plans and trying to convince myself that 6 months with no electricity isn't that bad - I've done it before. However, there is such peace that comes with giving in to that still, small voice - even when it wrecks your carefully laid plans!

Please pray for my health. I have struggled so much with my health these last few months and I'm headed into an area where the malaria is frequent. I'm armed with lot's of bug spray and the Great Physician, but I'd appreciate your prayers for myself, the students, and staff.

Please pray for God to do HUGE things for us during the 3 months of lecture and 3 months of ministry. God took enough time to wreck my plans, so I'm pretty sure He wants to do something awesome. Pray that I will have eyes to see it and a heart to embrace it.

 Pray for my language skills. My Portuguese is improving daily. I can understand most things, and my speaking ability is getting better all the time. However, most of the students and staff speak only Portuguese so I need to be a much quicker study than I have already been. Pray that by the end of the first 3 months I will be able to communicate effectively. This will be important for the ministry phase of the DTS.

I am so excited about what He is going to do. I am thrilled with the peace I feel about following His voice. I'm thankful that He loves me enough to wreck my plan.

And, yes, just in case you are wondering, I have already started singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas." ;0)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Raising the White Flag

Some of you may remember the animated movie that came out a few years ago, Joseph: King of Dreams. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about the movie – I wasn’t too interested in animated movies at the time. But there was a song in that movie, which really did touch my heart. The song was about Joseph’s surrender to the Lord in spite of his circumstances.

That may be the hardest thing about walking the Christian life – holding, clinging, trusting Him when our world is spinning out of control and nothing makes sense. How could God let this happen to me? When will God change my circumstances? Why doesn’t He answer my prayer? Doesn’t He care about my needs? Does He hear me? Does He even care? The questions we have in the middle of our circumstances are endless. I have even found myself bargaining with God, “If my child was asking me for this…..” It's so hard to understand when God could change our circumstances - when we think He should change our circumstances........and He chooses not to.

The thing I have found in my own life is all of my questions are about me – as if I deserve only good from God’s hand. We’ve all said, “I don’t deserve this!” But who really does? None of us want suffering, or loss, or hardship! But it is through those toughest of times, that our Savior molds us and we come to know the wonderful depths of His boundless character.

Here are the words to the song:

You Know Better than I

I thought I did what’s right
I thought I had the answers.
I thought I chose the surest road
But that road brought me here.
So I put up a fight, and told you how to help me
And just when have given up,
The truth is coming clear;

You know better than I.
You know the way.
I’ve let go the need to know why,
For you know better than I.

If this has been a test,
I cannot see the reason.
But maybe knowing I don’t know
Is part of getting through.
I try to do what’s best
And faith has made it easy
To see the best thing I can do
Is put my trust in You.

I saw one cloud and thought it was the sky.
I saw a bird and thought that I could follow.
But it was You who taught that bird to fly.
If I let You reach me, will You teach me?

I’ll take what answers You supply,
For You know better than I.

That last bit always confused me until recently – “I saw one cloud and thought it was the sky.”  Then one day I was listening to this song and pouring out my heart to God and the meaning hit me. We, in our humanness, see a beautiful cloud and are so struck by it’s magnificence that we do not understand how limited our view is. We don’t see what else is out there. If we could just catch a glimpse of the expanse of the sky, that cloud would seem so small and simple. But, God is loving enough not to let me be limited by my own small view of the world.

I came to Beira in November expecting to work with 25 precious little boys for the next three years. I did not expect to encounter such opposition from the leadership about…..well, everything. I did not expect that Satan would be so bound up in this place that I could not function in the ministry God called me here to do. I have cried, and prayed, and done what I can to break through the wall that is around the ministry here in Beira. The good news is, the hands of justice are moving and there will be new leadership at Casa Re’Om soon. The good news is the boys will be okay and that God loves them ever so much more than I do.

The heartbreaking news is, I am not a part of the future at Casa Re’Om. In recent weeks, God has made it clear to me that I am not to stay at Casa Re’Om. I thought He called me here for the boys, but I now think He called me here to speak the truth and bring the challenges here to the attention of YWAM leadership. So many people have come through Beira and left hurt and disillusioned without doing anything. But, God in his wisdom, brought a unique group of people together for this time who were willing to stand up and be a voice for the boys.

Though I don’t like it a whole lot, I will be moving on to the YWAM base in Lichinga at the beginning of July. While I have many friends in Lichinga, and there is a part of me that is so excited about the ministry there, right now my heart is aching because I will not be here to see the growth and change in my boys. I will not be here to tell them about Jesus. But there I go again with ”I”……

 He loves them more than I do. Jesus wants them to know His voice more than I do. Jesus will give them what they need everyday for the rest of their lives. I am not ready for my role in their story to be complete. But, Jesus is ready and He knows better than I.

So for now, I have my questions and my tears. I mourn and I look forward with excitement. He had a part for me to play in Beira and He has a part for me to play in Lichinga. I don’t have to understand Him to trust Him, and so trust Him I will. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not so Fluffy Bunnies

Somewhere along the way – I’m not sure when – Easter has become about sweet little fluffy bunnies, brightly colored eggs, chocolate and springtime. And while some of those things probably have their roots in spiritual things….or we can at least derive spiritual meaning from them, they’re not what Easter is about.

Easter is gory and painful. It’s bloody and tragic. Easter is about questions and confusion. Easter is about loss and betrayal – about loneliness and heartache. Easter is sorrow and suffering.  And, then – only then – is it redemptive and glorious.

In our rush to get to the glory of the empty tomb, we sidestep the biggest piece of the story.

 Imagine the disciples fear as they watched as Jesus was arrested. Jesus, the one whom they’d followed, the one whom they’d left their livelihoods for – was dragged away by the Roman guards, at night time, with their one time friend, Judas, leading the way! What confusion! What fear!

Imagine the panic of Peter when he was connected to Jesus and the acrid taste of bitterness on his tongue when that rooster crowed.

Imagine the anguish of Mary Magdalene as she watched her Savior – the only one who’d seen her and not what she’d done – bloodied and beaten beyond all recognition.

Imagine the immense sorrow of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Yes, she’d known along who her son was. She knew what the prophets said and she knew this day was coming. Still – she was a mother and that man in agony was the baby that she’d felt move with in her. He’d nursed at her breast. He was the one who she drilled the Torah into at the dinner table. She’d calmed his fears, dried his tears, and held him close. And now, she watched in helpless horror as her boy was cruelly murdered.

Imagine Simon of Cyrene who was accosted and made to carry a criminal’s cross. When he looked into the eyes of Jesus, did he know that Jesus was no criminal? Was he haunted by that look of love? The one that said, “I’m doing this for you.”

Imagine Joseph – a “secret” disciple who gave his tomb for Jesus to be buried in. Did he wish he hadn’t been so secret? Did he live with the regret of “if only?”

And John. What about John? The beloved one. The one charged with the responsibility to take care of Mary. Did he feel guilt that his Savior was dying in his place? Did he wish he’d had more time to learn from the Master?

And, those are just some of the major players that we know about. I wonder if the brothers of Jesus felt guilt because they’d refused to believe their brother’s claims. I wonder about all the people that Jesus had healed who knew that was every bit the God he claimed to be. Think about all the people at the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. How many of them felt that hope and light was dying right along with Jesus?

Then came Saturday. For Jesus’ family, friends, and followers it was the first time he’d ever be silent in their lives. I’ve been there – the day after someone you love dearly dies and has been buried. You wake up and for the first millisecond, you don’t remember the horror or tragedy or loss. Your brain lets you believe that it’s all a bad dream – for a split second in time. Then you look around, realize it’s not a bad dream and the sad settles into every part of your soul. You long for the power to change the past, to rewind, to not feel. Grief is a trap that you can’t break free from; a panic that gropes for the breath within you.

Some of them probably thought it was over for good and Jesus was gone. Others probably replayed conversations in their mind about death, resurrection, temples and all the other times that it seemed that Jesus was talking in riddles. Could it be that he wouldn’t stay in the tomb? But, with every passing hour he stayed in that grave hope slipped away and people that loved Jesus and whom he dearly loved grew more desperate for answers.

Have you been there, my friend? Are you there? Is it Friday when the tragedy, the sorrow has settled into every part of your soul? Is it Saturday when the waiting is agonizing and you really don’t think you can breathe – or wait – one more second? I have been stuck on Friday for many long dark nights. Even now, I’m in the Saturday of my soul, waiting for the answers I long for. Asking, if please, You could just fix this thing and make it better.

Friday and Saturday are miserable. There’s no doubt about it. But, here’s the thing; the sorrow of those two days make the glory of Sunday so much more sweet! Without Friday and Saturday, they never would have seen Jesus has the resurrected Son of God. Without Peter’s anguish and redemption, the church would have never been birthed. Without Friday and Saturday, Jesus would have just been a guy who told some really good stories and did some pretty cool stuff. Victory without defeat is not possible!

Yes, my friend, Friday and Saturday are long, horrible days. But Sunday is coming!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When His Way Leads to the Sea

Thy way was in the sea, and Thy paths in the mighty waters – and Thy footprints may not be known.” Psalm 77:19

           That verse is both comforting and unfathomable in the same sentence. It is comforting in that His way for the children of Israel (and for us, for that matter) was always in the sea. He didn’t lead them to the Red Sea with the mighty Egyptian army charging behind them and think, “Oh, crap! Now what am I gonna do?”

            He, in His infinite wisdom, led them to the sea. He led them to the place where the wind picked up and thrust the sea into two ominous walls of water. That was His way. His choice. That is unfathomable to me because He could have chosen a path that didn’t lead to the Red Sea. After years of hardship, slavery, and the wrath of Pharaoh it would seem that His children had suffered enough. One would think that God would have been content to whisk them away from the slavery of Egypt right into the promised land.

            But, instead He led them to a place where the sea stretched out in front of them as far as the eye could see and the pursuing Egyptian army spread out behind them as far as the eye could see. You can almost sense their panic. Yes, Egypt and its hardships were awful, but in the moment where they surely thought they faced death in the most unpleasant way, it couldn’t have seemed so bad.

            But then, God tells Moses to stretch out his hand and divide the sea. And, Moses, chock full-of-faith, saw God in the burning bush, used my staff to usher in the ten plagues Moses, watches while God parts the sea and stares in amazement at the dry ground beneath his feet. That must have been an incredible moment, and I’m sure a moment that Moses, not in a million years, would want to rewrite. It was a stepping stone of his faith, it was a story that would be passed down to his sons, and their children, and their children. Down through the ages it would be a story of God’s glory showing up in a guy with a speech impediment and a pretty sturdy staff.

            It a great story. Really, it is.

            But it leaves me with a lot of questions.

            Why did He need to take them through the sea? I mean, let’s be honest. While walking through the sea had to been pretty awesome, it also had to be scary. I’m going to tell you right now that at least once – maybe even twice – I would have thought about what would happen if that water came crashing in around me.

            Why did they have to go to the sea at all? Surely 400 plus years of captivity and abusive slavery had been enough trials for one set of people. After all their years of their slave song and crying out for God to send some one rescue them, He sets them free from the grip of Pharaoh…….and sends them to the sea? Seems to me they’d had enough of God testing their faith. In Exodus 3, God tells Moses that He has heard the cries of His children for help. He says He knows all about their suffering and that He has come to rescue them. Then He tells Moses all about a land flowing with milk and honey. I’m willing to bet as Moses stood there at the sea with the Egyptians hot on their tails, Moses must have thought, “What was that about a land flowing with milk and honey, Lord?”

            Yes, what about that? Why does it seem that the path to the promise is always filled with more heartache, hardship, and dashed hopes than we think we are capable of bearing?

            Oh, yes – it’s because we were never meant to bear it on our own.  It says so in that verse you learned before you were old enough to remember learning it, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Through Christ who gives me strength.

            His paths lead in the water because without them, we’d have this crazy idea that the grace, mercy, and goodness He bestows upon us has something to do with us. It doesn’t. His paths lead to the swirling seas with fear chasing us because that is where we find just how big our God is. Sometimes we don’t see His footprints because we are too focused on our own and whether or not the path is leading the way we think it should.

            Yes, His way leads to the sea and very often into the wilderness and sometimes I can not trace His footprints in the sand even though I try. But, what more proof do I need that I can follow Him? He did, after all, part the Red Sea.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting for Rain

For two wonderful days and nights, we have been blessed with rain. Real rain. Not just a shower. Real down pour. It has cooled off 98+ degree temps and humidity. It has filled our wells and soaked the parched earth. I feel better. I am not dripping sweat and I don’t sink. Hallelujah!

The day before the rains started, I was really having it out with the Lord. I was standing on the side of the road waiting for a chappa and absolutely dripping with sweat. I could feel the part in my hair (which was already tender) burning even more. And, it was not the first day of such sweltering heat. It was like the tenth. And I was over it. It’s the rainy season! So, in my mind, as I waited with a friend, I had this mental conversation with Jesus:

“You know, Lord, you made this day. You could have made it a little bit cooler – like even five degrees cooler would be helpful! You can do that. You could make the day cooler right now.”

Jesus, whose reprimands are ever so gentle but straight to the heart, said, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

Ever so stubborn me: “It’s too hot to rejoice in this day. I want rain. We need rain! The crops are dried up, people are going to starve this year because of the drought! You can make the rain. You could make it rain right now. Why won’t you send the rain?”

And honestly, I didn’t hear much after that. I was too angry and to stubborn to hear anything that He had to say. I was angry about the unending heat. I was angry about the lack of rain. I was angry about the many situations that I find myself in right now.

Rain seemed like such a simple thing for the God of the universe and so even in my anger I continued to pray for rain and cooler temps. I asked my friends to pray for rain and on Monday night big, stormy, full-of-rain clouds rolled in and it rained all night. It rained off and on all day Tuesday and it rained Tuesday night. It’s still raining. I’m so thankful! Yet, I have so many questions about God’s sovereignty. This year’s rice and maize crop are decimated. Food will have to be imported from the north where they’ve had rain or from other countries. The price of the food will go way up. People won’t be able to afford it. People who sell those crops for a living will have nothing. Families – children – will go hungry and be less able to fight disease.

He knew this, yet He withheld the rain. Why? Why did He choose a drought for these people who have so little? We, in the states, could handle a drought so much better. Food prices might go up, but we’d still be able to eat. We’d still be able to fight sickness. Droughts are stressful, but not life threatening.

And, I still don’t have the answers. The Rain-Maker could have sent the rain and saved the crops. He could have prevented another reason that people would go hungry and sick. For that matter He could have eliminated sickness altogether. But He doesn’t. And that’s so hard to accept.

However, I’m finding, even in my own life, in the rubble of the mess around me, that He doesn’t owe me any answers. He has the right to build, and destroy in the way that He knows is best. He has the right to prune the parts of my heart that I want Him to leave alone. He has the right to send and withhold rain. It’s His universe. It’s the heart He created beating inside my chest.

I want to come to a place where I don’t fight so hard against His choices. I want to just fully trust Him. Yet, my humanity rages against His sovereignty. I know that He knows best and I know that He will use these moments of my doubt to build something beautiful in the wreckage of these situations. I know that He loves the people who will starve during this drought year. He loves them! I’m not quite sure how to reconcile His love and His sovereignty some days. However, my misunderstanding doesn’t take away His goodness.

He is good.

Period. End of the sentence. There is no “but” or “however.” It’s a statement.

My Savior – the one who brought me half way around the world – is still real and good. He isn’t oblivious to my needs or the needs of the millions of people in this city. He didn’t forget to send the rain or water the seeds of my heart. But, like Paul, some things He chooses are for us to learn more about His character. The third time that Paul asked for Him to take away his “thorn” Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I’m sure Paul didn’t like that very much. At the moment, the absence of the thorn seemed like a much better prize than His grace. But, I’m pretty sure when it was all said and done Paul wouldn’t have traded the thorn because what He’d received was so much more worthy.

So, I hold my thorns and my questions, and I wait for the downpour of grace. It will come. The rains always come.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stuck in Grace

This has not been an easy week. In fact, it’s been the kind of difficult that leaves you feeling wrung out and hung up to dry. It has to do with a lot of things, really.

Two staff members are leaving – one because she was only supposed to be here for 3 months and the other because she feels just as stifled as all of us here do and feels that God is moving her elsewhere.

The boys – well they are quite sure they know better than I do – or anybody else does. They are refusing to come home after school (many of them have school at night), refusing to help with chores around home, and refusing to talk to us. Where we live is quite dangerous and there have been children killed right here in this city and their body parts sold. We’ve told the boys this. They laugh at us and walk away.

I live in a very male dominated culture. My very independent American girl spirit doesn’t like that so much. But, I knew that when I came here. So, I just have to accept it. I have to try to do what God called me to do in spite of it. I have to pray about it. But, I’m also realizing without the support of a strong male, I’m never going to accomplish anything with the boys’ behavior. They just don’t take any of the female staff seriously – even staff that has been here for over a year. That's so disheartening. My "female-ness" gets in the way of my love for the boys. That makes me mad!

So, I feel stuck. I feel stuck in between wanting so much for the boys and wondering why I should stay at this particular place if so little can be accomplished. I feel stuck between my very stubborn nature which says, “Stick it out because you said you would” and my more logical nature that says, “Just go to Lichinga because there is a strong staff there and so much work to do with street children.” I feel stuck because I can’t really get away from the pressure of all that’s going on. I live with the boys. I’m in a foreign country and it’s really expensive to fly anywhere. I don’t speak enough of the language, so I can’t even go out for the day alone – and it wouldn’t even be safe anyway.

I don’t necessarily want easy. I just want not so hard. I want to know what to do – how to move or when to be still. I want the boys to see that I am trying to help shape godly character in their lives. I want male staff that is supportive of the decisions that we make for the boys. I want to be better at speaking the language already. I want to feel like there is a way out.

As I was praying the other day, I just sort of shouted at the Lord, “I feel stuck!” And in his very calm, loving nature I heard him whisper back, “Then be stuck in grace.”

Sigh…..that doesn’t really help a whole lot, honestly. I still feel stuck. I still don’t know what to do. But, of this I am sure, if there’s a place to be stuck – I’ll take grace. I am in a really hard, uncomfortable, unwanted place – a place where God has to show up.

I hate waiting for him. I’m not sure I’ll ever like it. But over the years I’ve learned that when he shows up everything changes. The hard months or years lose some of there sting. The painful memories dull just a bit. The longing is replaced by contentment. The wound is covered with salve.

I don’t know how long I will be in this place waiting for him to show up and do his thing. It may be just around the corner. It may be months – or years away. I can’t see far enough into the darkness to know what’s around the corner. But, I do know there are worse places to be than waiting for the King of the Universe to show up.

I can trust the maker of the mountain. I can trust the one who breathes life to the storm and calms it with just a word. I can be certain that he will show up and bind my wounds and dry my tears. I know that the darkest part of the night is just before dawn breaks through. I know that if I can just hold on I will be amazed at what he can do.

Here’s a poem from my daily devotional about waiting:

I the bitter waves of woe,
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors that faith has cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast,
To the things that cannot fail.

And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that truth and right
Have the universe on their side;
And that sometimes beyond the stars
Is a love better than fate.
When the night unlocks her bars
I will see Him – and I will wait.

-          Washington Gladden

So, here I am holding fast to the things that cannot fail and I am waiting. I’ll shout that from the top of my lungs till faith buoys up under my tired wings. I’ll shout it till I believe it and until he shows up. Because He won’t fail and because He always shows up. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Hard.....

It’s hard to believe that God is just when I hold parentless children everyday.
It’s hard to believe that God is good when I am surrounded by suffering.
It’s hard to believe that God still heals when I see the ravages of disease.
It’s hard to believe that God is sovereign when children go hungry.

And then sometimes it’s really personal……

It’s hard to believe that God is trustworthy when people I should be able to trust let me down.
It’s hard to believe that God answers prayer when I don’t receive the answer I want.
It’s hard to believe that God wants the best for me when He says no.
It’s hard to believe that God is faithful when he could step in a fix my situation and he chooses not to.

I could go on. You could too. How many times in my life – in your life - have you hinged God’s character on what you can see? I’ve done it. I’m doing it right now.

When I came to the mission field, I expected hard. What I did not expect was the kind of hard I’m dealing with right now. The details don’t matter, really. There may be a time when the details matter and I can share them with you. But for now, it’s enough for you to know that just about everything I expected has been turned on its head. I have more questions than I have answers. And,  I’m finding that what I thought God called me here to do and what He actually called me here to do may be two very different things. I’m learning the common, but painful lesson that He allows our hurt so that His glory may be revealed.

And I don’t like it. At all.

I want a neat and clean mission field experience, thank you very much. Feed some hungry people. Teach some Bible stories. Hold some children. Love the hurting. Come home and share amazing stories. That’s what I want. But, this Jesus – who loves me far beyond what I can comprehend - won’t give me what I want. He is good enough to give me what I need instead. He is loving enough to ignore my childish temper tantrums, selfish demands, and small dreams. He loves me too much to leave me like this. He has a greater plan that will end up making me look a lot more like him.

C.S.  Lewis once said, “We don’t necessarily doubt that God wants the best for us. We just wonder how painful the best will turn out to be.”

That rings of truth, huh?

This week as I was talking to another staff member about all the stuff going on, I made the statement, “ I just feel like I’m drowning and I can’t see my way clear of this situation.”

Enter Mark 4 – my portion of Scripture for the next day.

It’s that familiar passage you learned about as a child in Sunday school. Jesus had been teaching all day and told the disciples to get in the boat and go with him to the other side of the lake. Once settled in the boat, Jesus promptly goes to sleep. And, that of course, is when the trouble started. Waves pounded the boat, water poured into the boat, the thunder was scary, the lightening was fierce, and the wind threatened to dump them all into the angry sea.

Mark 4: 37-38-  A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re all going to drown?”

Those sound like familiar words. And, I feel that very common indignation that you’ve felt too. How was Jesus sleeping? Was the fierceness of the storm not thrashing him around? Was the fear his friends felt of so little importance that he didn’t wake up when things got really bad? But we are getting ahead of ourselves – which always happens to me at this point in the story. Let’s finish the passage.

v. 39-40 – He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

Ouch. And when I read that verse that’s what I felt - the tiniest little pin prick in the center of my heart. That I could, after all this time, still have no faith. That after seeing Him walk me through so many things, I could even entertain the thought that I might drown.

Four little verses that speak to my situation.

His rebukes always bring repentance. I immediately felt sadness that I could even question Him. I don’t like my situation anymore that I did before I read that passage. I still want it to be fixed and I still don’t want to experience it. I don’t find myself to be a very willing participant in this “conforming my image to His” business most days. It’s not clean, or neat, or even desirable.

But, here’s what I’m learning:

His character is not and never has been tied to what I can see. If God doesn’t look just, or good, or kind, or loving – it’s because I’m looking at something other than His glorious face. If the fire seems a little hot, it’s because there’s a lot of me that needs to be burned away so that He can be seen. If being conformed to His image seems too hard, I need to remember that the pain He inflicts is better than never feeling His gentle, but pruning touch. If the storms of life make me feel beaten up, I must choose to see that He is beautiful and He has placed His image in me. I am understanding that my questions may go unanswered for a long time, but never forever. I am learning that this gentle, humble-in-heart Jesus loves making all things new and its okay for Him to do it in the deep places of my oh-so-human-heart.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ramblings from a Heart in Progress

Sometimes here I feel things so deeply. It’s almost like He has granted me the smallest portion of His heart and there are days when it is painful.

We took the boys to the beach on Saturday. We really had a good time. The ocean was so rough…..I got knocked down more times than I can count – much to the boys delight! They loved that I swam in the ocean with them. The boys are at times – rough and loud and little boy to the core. But there are other times when they are content to be loved and cuddled. Both are sweeter than I can put into words.

After we returned to Casa Re’Om, I decided to return to town to take a shower. The best we’ve got at Casa Re’Om right now are bucket baths and I knew the sand was never going to come out of……places without a real shower. So a few of the boys and I got on a Chapa (think a really old 15 passenger van with collapsible seats with about 26 people in it) and headed to town. Once in town we had to walk from the Chapa station through the market to my house.

The market is a scary place. Often, because I am a foreigner and because it’s easy to tell I don’t speak a whole lot of Portuguese, I am pulled and prodded in many different directions while people try to sell their goods to me. I have been told many times to keep my money close to me and not pull out my wallet in the market – it’s just not safe. Here in lies my problem:

As the boys and I walked across the bridge, there were several beggars – some with babies – holding out their hands for something – anything that someone would give them. The two ladies that caught my attention were blind. They had no idea each other was even there except for the fact that every once in a while one of them would call out for passers by to drop a few coins in their hands.

Part of me desperately wanted to reach in my bag and drop a few coins in their hands. Part of me was afraid to – especially with the boys in tow. They boys even seem to be frightened by all the attention I get in the market.

But as I looked at those ladies, I whispered, “God, how do you do it?” That question surprised even me when I heard myself say it. But, when I saw those ladies begging I felt a physical pang in my inmost being. And then I wondered: How does this God – who gave His son for redemption’s sake - look of the suffering of His children? I wanted to vomit. And to know that there is a Creator who made them and loves them, and He looks down and His heart feels their suffering so much more than I – how does He continue to look on their pain without reaching into their miserable existence and doing something?

And then I realized He did do something. He made some of His children with more blessings than they can actually ever use. And He wants – no, that not right – He EXPECTS us to do something about their suffering. I feel so convicted for not pressing a few coins into their hands. Do I not think that the God who called me here to love them can protect me? Do I not believe that He would allow something into my life that He cannot use? I know I need to be safe and wise. But, I also know that they need to know that God loves them and they can’t know that unless I step out of my comfort zone and meet their very obvious need.

And then on Sunday, I went to church with some of the boys. The church was just a mud hut with a thatch roof. It was miserably hot. I thought I had sweated here in Mozambique. But that little hut introduced me to an all new kind of sweating. But for hours they sang and clapped and worshipped their Savior. There were no voices – just the rhythm of clapping hands and stomping feet, just the harmony of voices raised in song to Jesus.

Then came the interesting part. They called me up front to preach! What do you do when the pastor is urging you to come up front and preach while people stare at you? Well… go preach! And after I finished preaching the pastor called the sick among us to come and be prayed for. So as they knelt in front of me, I reached out my hands to their heads, their faces, their shoulders and I called on the Balm of Gilead to come and heal them.

After nearly 3 hours, church was released. The pastor asked me to stand at the back to greet people as they left. I cannot begin to count how many kisses, hand shakes, and sweaty hugs I received. But, it was energizing for me. I really felt like I could have loved them all day long. I had this deep desire to learn their names, go into their communities, and share meals with them. I have this need to be a part of their lives.

I don’t really know how this will all look down the road. But, I know that God is stirring my heart for the broken, hungry, needy people all around me. I love the boys and I know beyond a doubt that I need to be here now to love them and teach them about Jesus. However, because of the generosity of many people they eat better, live better, and have more than others in their community.  I am asking God how I am supposed to make a difference in their lives and also understand this need in my soul to reach those who have even less than they.

I pray that He will make me bold. I ask that He will make my ears and tongue quick to learn Portuguese so that I can do more. I just don’t know what He is stirring in my heart. However, I understand that my heart cannot hurt nearly as much as His and I know He brought me here to touch their lives. Please pray with me as I seek to understand what is in His heart for me.

I know that for years as I have done ministry I kept looking around me and thinking that I wanted to minister to the “have nots” and everyone around me fell into the category of the “haves.”  I know I’ve been called to do more. I just can’t exactly put my finger on it just yet. Pray that He will show me what I need to know.

There is a reason this particular blog was called “Ramblings….” I know it is random and has a lot of different thoughts. But it’s also a reflection of how I feel at the moment – deep joy, pain, desperate need to do something – anything – that will ease the brokenness all around me. I have a deep need to know Him and to make Him known. There are times when I still miss home so much that I feel it physically. But when I hold my boys, when I hear the Muslim call to prayer, when I see the deep suffering of His children, I know that I need to do more. I know that we all need to do more because their need for Jesus is too great to ignore. For reasons I will never understand, He has allowed us to be His hands and feet and so I press on because today someone is depending on me to love them like Jesus. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put the words on them ourselves. The books is called Opportunity and the first chapter is New Year's Day." ~ Edit Lovejoy

I can hardly believe it is 2012! Where did 2011 ago? In laughter, in tears, in too many memories to name. I really can't believe I'm sitting here in Mozambique. It brings me a since of peace that I can't really explain. Last night as we set off our own little mini fireworks show and I held Mingolas close because he was a little timid about all the noise, tears came to my eyes. I couldn't help but thank the Lord for safe passage to a new year and the wonderful possibility of the year that lay before me.

My friend Alice says it's the year of "restoration." I like the sound of old things being restored and long-ago prayers being answered. I like the sound of closure that restoration brings. I am ever so excited to place last year's book on a shelf, knowing the final chapter has been written and I can return to it now and then to remember the lessons learned and the victories one.

As someone who loves to write, I am even more excited about this new book that is about to begin. There is something so - hopeful and wonderful - about a blank page. Anything can go on that page.....there are endless possibilities.

I know that if I wrote this story alone, it would go differently than it should. I also know if I don't write this story it will go differently than I want at times. But, I've trusted the Author so long, it is without hesitation that I hand the pen and the book over to Him. I trust that He will write a much better story than I ever could. I trust that He will write the story that will matter most. I trust that He has bigger dreams than I do.